Blink and you’ll miss it: Taxidermy Tuesdays in Blackburn

The fortune tellerThe art of taxidermy is not the first thing most people would associate with Blackburn.

Yet as part of a new scheme to reinvigorate the town’s art scene local artist Nicola Hebson wants to not only introduce the town to her offbeat art but get them to take part in it too.

For the first time in the town’s history she is hosting a series of half day DIY taxidermy workshops amidst Victorian efforts in Blackburn Art Gallery and Museum this December.

But whilst Victorians had an obsession with shooting animals to turn them into trophies Nicola, who is a strict vegan, wants to prove that taxidermy can actually IMAG1330be an ethical celebration of their lives.

And she relies on her own road kill finds and donations from locals to do it.

Being vegetarian and with some free time on my hands I put my squeamishness to one side to find out what she meant.

Can you guess what mine will be?

Can you guess what mine will be?

A nurse, pest controller and mum and son were amongst the eight people I joined last Tuesday to learn the craft, all armed with clothes and props to help give our creations their own personalities.

Although the fact that the mice had been bought from a

Meet my mouse

Meet my mouse

pet shop seemed to contravene the ethics behind what we were about to do Nicola said that they were unsuitable to sell to pets and would have gone in the bin had she not bought them.

IMAG1316Reassured I picked my mouse out of a box and got him prepped for his operation on a suitably festive paper plate.

Using just a scalpel we sliced straight down the backbone then began to peel the skin from the organ sac.IMAG1317

And here’s a quick biology fact of the day-as long as the animal’s been dead a while the amount of blood is minimal as the heart is no longer pumping it around the body. The only thing you really risk if you cut too deep is a pretty unpleasant dead animal smell.

We skinned the trickiest part, the head, last where we

Inside/outside- two mice for the price of one

Inside/outside- two mice for the price of one

carefully cut around the eye sockets to avoid creating a cyclops mouse.

Then we covered the skins in kitchen salt and left to one side whilst we got a cuppa and admired some of Nicola’s own work.

Preserving the skin

Preserving the skin

We shook off our nicely salted skins and gave them a bath

to remove any last pieces of grit  before giving

Time for a swim

Time for a swim

them a quick blow dry.

Just using wood wool, cotton and clay we created some IMAG1347new and hopefully much longer lasting insides for our mice.

Then we slid on the mouse skin and added some pipe cleaners to give its legs some more support, modelled its arms into its final position and added some beads for eyes.

IMAG1338N.B. I’d advise pushing a little harder down than I did unless you want a slightly shocked/bug-eyed look.

And no taxidermied animal is complete without its own set of clothes.IMAG1351

A sword, hat and tabard helped me reincarnate my mouse as Mr Maurice the Mouseketeer.

Surprised that I’d stuffed the mouse without once feeling sick I realised it really isn’t as gory as everyone thinks.

IMAG1358

Our motley crew looks like the weirdest Never Mind the Buzzcocks line up

If taxidermy gives an animal destined for the rubbish bin a second lease of ‘life’ then I’m happy to say I’m another non-meat eating convert.

Nicola’s classes will run from noon to 4pm IMAG1370on Tuesday 10 and 17 December and cost £45. For more information visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nickytaxidermist

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s